Campground #4, Bear River (Essay on: Place)

Monday, February 25, 2013
Hello, all! This is the first part of an essay I've written for my English class this semester. I'm considering revising and submitting it for publication sometime down the road. Any comments on how I could improve this would be greatly appreciated! I'll be putting up the next few parts over the next few days.

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            You can’t remember the first time you actually went there - how old you were or what year it was. All you remember is that it was raining. Rain is a rare thing in the west, and you always loved it when it bothered to turn up. You loved the smell, and the feeling of the cold droplets splattering against your head, hands, and arms. While your father set up the tent and tried to find dry wood for a fire, you paced back and forth on the thin, slick top of the concrete turtarrier, feeling the rain slow and eventually dissipate entirely.

             The campground sits at the far end of the site, in a semicircle of knotted aspens, right on the edge of the river. In your mind, the water is gray, or green, or maybe a dull cobalt, but it’s never blue. It is always loud, except on rare, cold summer nights when you worm your way out of your sleeping bag and crawl out of your tent and see the sky clearer than its ever been. There are footpaths beaten into the woods beyond, and the imposing slope of the eastern hill makes the road seem further away than it actually is. You could almost forget it’s there until morning comes and the crackle and howl of the engines begins to beat its steady way down the mountain.

            When you first went there, and the few times thereafter, you would walk the footpaths through the woods, gathering sticks and swinging them like swords: imagining that you were a knight doing battle against unseen enemies. You’d leap along the rocks on the edge of the river, keeping what you presumed was excellent balance on the thick, mossy stones. You’d crawl through the underbrush and find a fallen tree which made a makeshift bridge to a small island - is island the right word? It was surrounded on all sides by the rumbling water of the river, so island seems to work. You’d traipse across the tree carefully. The water below always seemed so very far away. There wasn’t much of anything on the island. The spare few trees didn’t usually drop any usable firewood, and the island was far too small to have much of anything on it. Still, clambering across that tree to get there was your favorite part of visiting the campground. There were no footpaths beaten into the ground on that island, and it felt like a small, secret place. A place that was of the world, but not necessarily a part of it. A place where no one had ever been but you. And when you’d come back to the campground, you would always be covered in jagged cuts and bruises and your clothes would be torn in places. By the end of the week your arms were rough with ridged scabs that you never seemed to notice or care about.

            Looking back, you speak about it in hushed, Robert Frost-esque tones, like it was some long-lost age of innocence that can never be recovered. Perhaps it was.


  1. It's very good. The only sense I missed was smell- maybe you could add something about the smell of the earth-trees-? Otherwise, it brought back a lot of good memories of our favorite place to camp. <3

  2. The water needs more chuckling.
    And you need to mention the dad's friend who found pretexts to come visit the site.

  3. I was just talking to your mom about how much I loved camping with you guys when you were little. I am glad to see you have fond memories.


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